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Month: February 2008

Jet Lag Gemini-Fire The Cannons Doghouse Records

Jet Lag GeminiFire The Cannons

Doghouse Records

Melodic pop-punk with enough edge to make it rock.

I had high hopes when Jet Lag Gemini’s Fire The Cannons arrived on my desk. This marked the first time I’d actually heard a band before I received their CD to review, having heard their first single “Run This City” on the Sirius Punk station in my car.

Luckily, my hopes were fulfilled. From the CD’s opener, the aforementioned “Run This City,” all the way to its end, the band manages to break out of the typical pop-punk mold and present its own style. The band has a much more melodic sensibility than most East Coast punk bands and features some great vocal harmonies.

The closest the band really comes to anything is the SoCal brand of pop-punk popularized by bands like Sugarcult. The sound is similar, but Jet Lag Gemini brings in much more humor in their lyrics. Evidence of this is found in the band’s name, a play on a Nintendo 64 game called Jet Force Gemini. The band also has more of a rock edge to it, especially when lead guitarist Vlad Gheorghiu shreds out a few solos. He is especially good during his metal-inspired soloing on “Fit To Be Tied.”

Lead singer Misha Safinov is also a great asset to the band. His voice is very distinct and lends itself well not only to the hard rocking songs, but also to the ballads (of which there are several).

Fire The Cannons also has the good graces to not be two-faced. Many bands out there will put all their energetic songs at the beginning and all the slow songs at the end, making an album feel bogged down with emotion at the end. Not so with Jet Lag Gemini’s release, for as soon as things go down a bit, they’re turned right back up.

Tracks to keep an eye out for include “Run This City,” “Stepping Stone,” “Fit To Be Tied,” “Just Say How,” and “Picture Frames.” Though, in truth, every song on the album has its merits, showing influences from punk, pop-punk, metal, swing, 50’s pop, classic rock and even a hint of Sergio Leone.

While some may list them off as just another pop-punk band, Jet Lag Gemini sets itself apart from the others and will likely begin to draw large crowds in the near future. This is one of the best albums I’ve ever reviewed for Independent Clauses.

Nate Williams

Jim Ward-Quiet Civil Defense League

jim-ward-quiet-cd-artJim Ward – Quiet

Civil Defense League

A refreshingly earnest acoustic EP that feels and sounds quiet.

On average, I listen to an EP four times before I sit down to review it. If I like an EP, I may put it in my listening rotation after I’ve reviewed it, hearing it once a week or so. In contrast, I listened to Quiet by Jim Ward 26 times before I sat down to review it, and I’ve been listening to at least one song off it every time I turn on my iPod. In short, I love this EP dearly and you will too.

Quiet is a perfectly named album, because it consists of five acoustic songs that are not just quiet in volume, but in feel. These songs, written by Jim Ward of Sparta fame, are all built off an underlying feeling of unpresumptuous dignity. These songs were made for the catharsis and enjoyment of the writer, and if you enjoy them too, awesome. But they stand alone without your needing to enjoy them. They don’t pull any crowd participation tricks, they don’t have huge anthemic choruses and they don’t reach for epic heights. These are just songs to be quiet with. They are incredibly humble, and that humility has endeared them to me.

“On My Way Back Home Again” sets the mood of the album: a folksy strum pattern that stays strong and doesn’t wisp out into nothingness, augmented by a piano and a weary harmonica. This isn’t weak, depressed music – it has a spine, but it doesn’t have to punch you in the face to show you.

Jim Ward’s voice is low and comfortable – he rarely goes for the top of his range, staying squarely in the notes that are easy to sing. And why not? It sounds amazing. Each of the performances is its own gem, but I’m especially fond of “On My Way Back Home Again,” because the slow delivery and comfortable yet world-weary tone fits the song perfectly.

“Take it Back” is a little more upbeat thematically and instrumentally, implementing a blocky, choppy strum pattern reminiscent of Page France. The melody in the chorus is one that you will hum after the album is over. Another highlight is closer “Easier Said Than Done,” which uses a fuzzy, buzzing bass as the core of the delicate song. It feels very much like an ocean-side performance, and it is the most calming track on the album. It’s beautiful, relaxing, and most of all, quiet.

This is an EP that I could keep talking about for hundreds more words – there’s just so much to enjoy in this album. If you make playlists of the mellowest stuff off all your favorite albums, this album is for you. It’s simply fantastic.

Stephen Carradini

Joe Buck Yourself-Joe Buck Yourself

Joe Buck YourselfJoe Buck Yourself

Bucket City Agency

In-your-face, fuzzed-out Southern psychobilly that’s sure to singe your soul.

Armed with a beyond-the-grave howl and a ragged Mohawk, Joe Buck is one menacing dude. From the opening trio of chunky, distortion-enveloped chord-strikes on “Dig a Hole” straight through to the stumbling after-hours polka of “Intreatment All,” Joe Buck Yourself’s self-titled, debut full-length writhes through thirteen devilish tunes. With his move from side-kick upright bassist in Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, Joe Buck has roared into the role of one-man band with enough anger and flair to unseat the devil himself. Self-proclaimed as a “unique blend of hillbilly punk rock,” Joe Buck Yourself beats your ears into submission. You will listen.

Uniting Joe Buck Yourself is a contagious, straight-forward kick-drum that pulses its way through the thirteen tracks and an ungodly overdrive that’s sure to leave mangled eardrums in its wake. On the second track “Are You My Enemy?”, Joe Buck’s voice bounces between a central line and echoes that shoot by on the stereo left and right. Straightforward as a shotgun shot between the eyes, Buck howls “DIE! Motherf—er! DIE!” over the three-chord fuzz-box guitar riff and relentless drumbeat.

“The Devil is on His Way” falls somewhere between a Southern Baptist altar-call and a curse-fest from gym class. Opening with a drum beat reminiscent of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and amped up by tube-amp-busting overdriven guitar chords, “The Devil is on His Way” mercilessly mashes your ear into the speakers. On the chorus, Buck hollers down from his bar-stage pulpit: “Devil is on his way, fall to your knees, fall to your knees, Devil’s gonna make you pay,” with a convincing enough growl to make your skin crawl. Listening to the song, you nearly want to repent for sins you haven’t even committed.

I can’t honestly say Joe Buck is all snarl and sin; “Bitter is the Way” seems to have wandered out of an indie-folk album and snuck in the back-door of Joe Buck Yourself. There’s an ambiance in the song as though it was recorded in the nineteen-thirties on analog, reel-to-reel tape. Joe Buck pulls in the reigns of the fifty-car distortion-pile-up that typifies Joe Buck Yourself for nearly three minutes—a brief breather in a heart-attack of songs. I found “Bitter is The Way” to be my favorite song on the disc; Joe Buck does a bang-up job of sounding like an indie-folk singer, and his lyrics are both thoughtful and haunting—miles from the lyrics on “Devil is on his Way” (“Devil is on his way, motherf—er’s gonna make you pay!” ) and “Are you my Enemy?” (“Die! Motherf—er, die!” Buck’s voice waxes Waits-esque as he intones: “At the fool’s expense bitter finds a home. Bitter comes to stay. Bitter lingers on and bitter is the way. Bitter is the day, bitter comes in waves, bitter comes to stay. Bitter is the way to an early grave; for my soul to save for my soul I pray: cast bitter days away.”

I’m convinced that if Joe Buck were to write more songs like “Bitter is The Way,” he could make a lasting impact in neo-folk circles; the vocal tone he manages to get—a raspy gasp that dies away at the end of syllables with a hint of breath—is absolutely ear-grabbing. Of all the songs on Joe Buck Yourself, I’m wagering that this is Buck’s least favorite, but that doesn’t take anything away from it. I hope he keeps working on this vein of songwriting.

—Timothy C. Avery


Keeping Up with the Culpas

Keeping Up with the Culpas

The Felix Culpa put out their first full length album of highly artistic rock/emo/hardcore in 2004. Since then they’ve released an EP/DVD set, seen a member get married, added a member and remained the same guys that broke their drummer’s foot in early 2005 by sliding him down a set of stairs in a drum case. Though goofy (and self-described as the biggest suffers of ADD ever), the guys of The Felix Culpa are some of the most focused and motivated musicians in the scene. Despite the fact that Joelly was slightly intoxicated and the rest of the band did display the combined attention span of a flea, we managed to discuss everything from new band members to the new album to labels.

IC: So, let’s start out with the biggest thing. There is a new member since I last saw you guys.

Dustin (The new guy): He’s weird.

Tristan: Yeah. Dustin. The young’n. Actually, though, I always forget that he’s as young as he is. Dustin has always sort of just clicked with us. There are a lot of cases in life where age truly doesn’t matter… and I think Dustin fits in that category all too often.

IC: Awesome. So Dustin, what do you play? What role are you playing in the band now?

Marky: Dustin is magic.

Dustin: Well, now… I mostly play keyboards and second guitar. But occasionally I’ll make some noise with my mouth or some percussive things, and I might do some trumpet action.

IC: Ok, so I’m listening to the demos on Myspace and I’m really liking them. Are they part of the new album, and when can we expect that album?

Marky: Yeah they are.

Marky: We have no set release date yet. And we’ve have actually tracked 16 songs for the album… we’re about 60% done with the tracking as it sits.

IC: Wow, so we can expect a long album?

Dustin: Marky’s always got things up his sleeve.

Marky: Yeah.

Joelly: Approx 71 minutes or so.

Marky: We actually have cut it down from an approximate 25 or so songs that we’ve started/re-written/scrapped/demoed. We really wanted this to be the best that we had to offer…

Tristan: Yeah. It’s been crazy over the last 13 or 14 months what we’ve done with songs. Just… sculpting and reworking everything.

Dustin: I’m actually still going to be really sad to see some of those songs go.

Marky: We’ll record them somewhere… I’m sure they’ll all find a home.

Joel: I agree with Dustin… on some of the songs, anyways.

Tristan: same here

Marky: ::pats lil dusty on the head::. We could still record Peter…

Joelly: don’t tease.

Dustin: and shorty!

IC: are you currently touring on songs off the new album or are you still playing Commitment?

Dustin: both

Marky: We actually aren’t really touring at all right now. But the shows that we play locally are a mix of old and new.

Dustin: It’s usually a pretty even mix of new and old, when we do play shows

Tristan: We’ve sort of held off on any touring for the last 14 months to work strictly on the album.

Marky: …which has been consuming most of our time.

Joelly: Seriously.. 14 months!?! Geeze. We need to tour.

Tristan: I know.

Dustin: Can we please?

Tristan: I’ve been getting sad lately. I miss touring so much. haha

Marky: It’s been 2 years since we’ve had a proper release…

Tristan: But I guess I’d rather be a band that takes our time and makes sure we’re doing what we want, how we want, rather than just crank out crap that we don’t care about just to release something.

IC: very nice. I saw you guys are playing a show with Fall of Troy and A Wilhelm Scream. Is that an exciting show for you guys?

Dustin: I’m excited.

Joelly: It’s a strange show for us to play, considering the extreme differences in style… but it should be a good time still

IC: You guys don’t seem to fit the bill but it still isn’t a misfit billing

Joelly: We seemed to be well accepted by crowds that enjoy bands like them

IC: Yes, says the guy who has both bands in the same playlist.

Tristan: Actually, I’m curious to meet the Wilhelm guys. We’ve been told from numerous “industry” sources that they talk us up to people a lot, and we’ve never even had the pleasure of seeing their faces. So I think I just want to thank them.

Marky: I don’t know if that has to do with us not knowing where we fit as musicians right now, or if we just have had a bit of bad luck with bookings.

Dustin: The thing with a band like us, and a lot of our contemporaries, is there doesn’t seem to ever be a bill that we totally “fit” on, but that’s what makes shows more interesting

Tristan: I agree. I like diversity on bills. Not so much where like… nothing fits… but just enough to bring some things that are different… well… together.

IC: So have you guys been searching for a label or are you feeling an indie release?

Marky: let’s not go there. Really, we have no idea.

Tristan: I was simply going to type a question mark.

Joelly: Seriously – no idea.

Marky: That’s been the subject of many a conversation around here.

Joelly: If the right offer presents itself, and it doesn’t seem to contradict everything we stand for, then… who knows?

Marky: We’ll just see what happens, I guess.

Joelly: Again…when the time comes…

Tristan: Well said, Tipsy Action Joelly, well said.

Joelly: Is that a new action figure?

Tristan: yes! that’s exactly what I was going for. =D

IC: feel free to ax this next question. What ended the relationship with Common Cloud? Was it just time to move on or was there an incident?

Marky: It’s rad…karate kicks and stuff.

(Thirty Second pause)

Marky: Wow.

Tristan: Can that be the answer to Scott’s question?

Marky: We actually haven’t really ended our relationship.

Dustin: I actually live in the apartment that Common Cloud has been based out of for the last however many years.

Marky: we have a 7 inch split with another band slated to come out on CC in 2008

Tristan: Yeah… it’s, again, not really a black and white topic… hopefully that split will be used as part of a platform to help hype the new album a bit.

Marky: Yeah. we had a two-release contract with them… we put out Commitment and Thought Control, and we’re all still really good friends and we don’t really have a label home.

Tristan: Yeah, what Marky said is about as accurate as it gets. We had a business relationship with some friends that was mutually beneficial. The contracts have sort of ended and we’re both going our separate ways as business partners, but as friends… I don’t think that will ever come to an end.

Marky: We just mostly want to be open to doing what it is that best suits the community of artists that we believe in. If that’s putting out this album independently, then I think we might try that… if we finally nail down that contract that has all the right things in it, then that will obviously be the route we go. But I’m not sure what will happen with Common Cloud. There will always be an ongoing relationship with them, in some form.

IC: On that note, what would the dream contract contain?

Marky: I think at least…

Joelly: There are a lot of really disappointing things happening right now in the industry. Marky and I were just sort of talking about this the other day.

Marky: Booze and hookers…J/K

Joelly: oh.. i mean.. NO.

Marky: um… We have gone around that again and again and at this point I think we’re not really sure.

Tristan: I think that one thing we can all agree on

Marky: Maybe someday it will present itself, and we’ll know, but until then we’ll keep on writing and recording and playing out.

Tristan: is that our “dream contract” would HAVE to include is being able to control who we are, what we are, and what we create as an entity

Marky: Absolutely. That’s non-negotiable.

Tristan: Like… we never want to be made to do things that we know we don’t stand for or believe in.

IC: One thing that has always impressed me about you guys as a band is that you didn’t jump into that ring of corruption after the Ernie Ball contest.

Joelly: That or…no one wanted to talk to us. ha.

Marky: We scared everyone.

Tristan: Yeah. honestly.

Marky: We had no reason being there… we were not what ANYone there was looking for.

Tristan: As much of a joke as both those statements were…

Marky: But, we were happy to do it. It was a nice vacation. Hollywood in December, right?

Tristan: We stand for everything that’s the opposite of that. And I think it was a huge turn-off to the labels and industry people that were there. I LOVE Brian Ball. he’s been nothing but generous and kind and amazing to us. I just think that… we don’t belong.

Marky: and we really honestly have nothing bad to say about the Ernie Ball people… they were amazing.

IC: So guys, who are you guys listening to?

Marky: so C’mon Scott… when are you going to ask us the biggies… fav color, fav food, what do you dream about???

Marky: yes!

Dustin: currently, lots of the colour revolt

Joelly: All of our musical tastes differ quite a bit… a lot of common ground though too… that’s such a hard question

Scott Landis: holy crap, you just cited a band I don’t know

Dustin: they’re great

Marky: YOU WILL LOVE COLOUR REVOLT. Go now. Interview them instead of us. Seriously.

Dustin: Incredibly unique, honest, heartfelt music.

Marky: Totally.

Joelly: Yeah – those dudes are amazing.

Tristan: I would say the albums in my constant daily rotation right now are: Dillinger – Ire Works, Thrice – Alchemy Index, Up Up Down Down – Worst Band Name Ever, 2 new, unreleased Mercury Program songs

Dustin: I also just remembered today how much I love The Cure’s Japanese Whispers as an album

Marky: Nobody cares, Dustin…also for me… Brand New’s newest CD is still freaking unbelievably good.

IC: Well guys, I have to cut it off there. I need to catch a bus to LA. Any parting words you’d like included?

Marky: Sorry that we didn’t actually answer any questions that had any relevance towards music.

Tristan: If you ever want to interview us again and have us say… you know… meaningful things that don’t make us look like we’re mentally handicapped… please – feel free to ask us again. haha

Joelly: Ha… Yeah – do we get a part 2? We are soooo ADD. Sorry Scott.

Marky: Let’s do a part two where we actually talk about music or something…

IC: Don’t worry about the ADD – it makes for a great interview. And I would totally be up for a second round.

Tristan: Yay for redemption!

Marky: Thanks scott!

Dustin: That’s what she said

Joelly: Who wants to see me ON THE MOON!!!?!?!

IC: Joelly, good luck getting sober.

Tristan, Felix Culpa: HAHA

Marky: DO IT JOEL!

Joelly: haha… I’m seriously not drunk. The dudes over exaggerated.

Tristan: I said you were tipsy!

-Scott Landis

Keith Varick-Keep Breathing EP

[”>Keith Varick – Keep Breathing EP


Relaxing electronica that succeeds despite not breaking much ground.

Keith Varick’s Keep Breathing EP is full of smooth, beautiful and very purposeful electronic music that creates a calm, relaxing feel.. The songs carry emotionally charged lyrics that are beautiful in a poetic “I’m so alone” sense. It’s all been done before, but even if the EP is basic, it’s good when you need to stop and take a breather.

In opening track “Frozen,” the music is fittingly harsh and cold. The vocals slowly emerge from the electronic chords, yet give the music a cold feeling by not fitting in at all. Then they just float there. The main idea of the song is to keep breathing and everything will be all right. That basic idea goes through the rest of the EP with next track “Ladeda,” and ends with “Street Sounds” asking for a nice walk to get away from it all.

This EP it is great to just sit down and relax to when you are upset or just need to think for while. It is not exactly groundbreaking material, but it definitely does what music is supposed to do: give you something to reflect on and help you clear your mind when you need to.

– Emily Robinson

My Top Ten of 2007

My Top Ten of 2007

By Megan Morgan

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

Holy smokes, I love this album. It did take me some time and many listens to form that opinion, though. I am a huge fan of Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral, so at first, the dark, brooding quality of their 2007 release freaked me out. I was especially worried, during the first initial listens, when the organ-heavy track “Intervention” came on. I wondered what had happened to my Arcade Fire, whom I was so attached to in Funeral’s much lighter tracks, which could almost be called “fun” in comparison to Neon Bible. But I didn’t give up on this album, thankfully. I listened to it over and over again, and then, finally, I think I “got it.” I realized how beautifully it is produced, and how extremely ambitious it is with its spiritual themes. Now “Intervention” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Keep the Car Running” and “No Cars Go” are also standout tracks to me, because both have intense, concentrated energy and very full sound. Whereas I consider Funeral more of a group album, Neon Bible is a personal one. I’m pretty obsessed with Arcade Fire, and can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.

Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full

While knowing full well that this is not McCartney’s best, I can’t help but be biased towards a former Beatle. I’ve got a soft spot for pop, and an even softer spot for the Beatles. Plus, have you heard the opener “Dance Tonight”? Sure, it is very simplistic, but it’s also wonderfully catchy, and always makes me smile. Memory Almost Full is nostalgic to the extreme, and the lyrics might be borderline cheesy in places, but Paul clearly hasn’t lost his melodic touch.

the Educated Guess, Beautiful Strangers

This independent release from Missouri-based group the Educated Guess is quite astonishing in its completeness and production. This piano-driven, 60s influenced rock album gets better with multiple listens, and I always hear something new each time. Beautiful Strangers was released as a double-album with the gospel-tinted EP Daunted Soul, and both are highly recommended.

The Polyphonic Spree, The Fragile Army

To me, there’s nothing like a band with a full sound, and with twenty-plus members, The Polyphonic Spree can achieve this pretty easily. I think The Fragile Army is this group’s most sophisticated release yet. It is unreservedly enthusiastic and massive-feeling, which I appreciate.

Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The infamously minimalistic Spoon spices things up on this album. There are still some very bare tracks, especially “The Ghost of You Lingers,” but I love the songs that include brass instruments, like “The Underdog.” Spoon sounds effortlessly cool, as usual.

Among Wolves, Among Wolves

This self-titled release manages to fit into the alt-country genre, while also sounding experimental, creating a very original sound. It’s inventive and accessible at the same time.

Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

I have good memories of listening to this one with my roommate last year in our dorm room. We frequently played this album when friends came over, and it somehow always satisfied everyone’s music tastes.

Streetlight Manifesto, Somewhere in the Between

I have loved Streetlight Manifesto for years, so I was naturally excited when Somewhere in the Between was finally released. I realize that punk-ska may not be for everyone but I appreciate this album’s intricate guitar and brass riffs that require much technical skill. This album never loses momentum and shows the band’s maturity.

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare

Who doesn’t love these young British boys? With this sophomore effort, the Arctic Monkeys prove that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not wasn’t just a fluke.

Marc with a C, Normal Bias

This independent release epitomizes do-it-yourself pop. Normal Bias is frequently funny, often very personal, and always enjoyable.